Friday, September 09, 2005

By the rivers of Babylon

Psalm 137 was made particularly famous by the song at the Eurovision Song Contest a few years back, being sung by one of the entries. But I have been thinking of it a lot these past couple of days.

Psalm 137:1-9 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. [2] There on the poplars we hung our harps, [3] for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" [4] How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? [5] If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget {its skill}. [6] May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. [7] Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. "Tear it down," they cried, "tear it down to its foundations!" [8] O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us— [9] he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land? It might well be my thoughts in a few weeks, being in a new and strange place, and feeling far from what is familiar.

But there was a flaw in the thinking of the Israelite exiles. They thought that Jerusalem was the only place that God could be. It was his dwelling place, so for them, exile was 'away from God'. They just didn't feel like singing praise to God when they had been taken away from God.

And yet...

Ezekiel was one of God's prophets, and his books opens with a vision of God in that picture of the throne with wheels in wheels and all that, which seems so confusing to us. Yet that was the symbol and sign that God was with his people, even in exile. Because God isn't limited to only being in Jerusalem, or Newtownstewart, or Dromore - he is omnipresent! God is with us everywhere. There is nowhere that we can go to get away from God - as the psalmist wrote: 'Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?... (no matter where I go) even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast' (Psalm 139:7, 10).

And so, as I venture southwards, I go in the power of God, and staying in the presence of God, because He created that place, and he sees the end from the beginning, and knows what is to come.

As a missionary friend of mine tells me often:

Zoti ynë është një Zot i madh
(Our God is a big God)


  1. Somewhere once upon a time, I heard those words too:

    Zoti ynë është një Zot i madh -
    Ai na mban në duart të tij.

    As I read your post, my thoughts turned to Isaiah 41:10-13...I can't quote those verses exactly, but verse 10 starts with, "Mos ki frikë sepse unë jam me ty!" and verse 13 ends with "Mos u frikëso, unë të ndihmoj."

    Gary, don't you ever lose sight of that - God is with you. God will help you. God has YOU in His hands :) God upholds you with His righteous right hand. He is your God.

    And that means here and now...and also there and then...everywhere and always.

    Praying for you my friend :)

  2. God has a plan an purpose 4 ur life, u will be mightily blessed 4 obeying him Gary. As much as its daunting now its exciting 2 facing the new challanges. Ur in my thoughts an prayers

  3. have cracked any babies skulls against any rocks, yet? (see the rest of the boney m psalm!